The Principal's Office
Leadership. Collaboration. Innovation.
I had the opportunity to go to Disney World with my family when school ended this year. Watching the joy on my kids' faces as they saw the Disney characters and went on the rides and saw the shows was nothing short of amazing. As a parent, I will never forget it. Seeing Disney World for the first time as an adult I was amazed at the innovation on display, the teamwork and the culture that had been created. Everyone that worked there was always happy, friendly, caring, and genuinely interested in ensuring we were enjoying ourselves. Walt Disney was a true innovator. The vision he had to create such a "magical" place is extraordinary. Everyone that worked there played a key role in the overall success of the park. As I walked around and took it all in I couldn't wait to see what was next. There were quotes from Walt Disney throughout the park that highlighted Walt Disney's vision. One that really stuck with me....
As an educational leader or a teacher, isn't this what we want for our students when they enter our school too? Can you imagine if they walked into your school and felt like they were in another world? A place where they are in awe, filled with anticipation and wonder? Don't we want them walk into a place where they feel cared for, appreciated, supported and the people there go out of their way to make sure that the students' needs are being met? There are many students that come to school to experience the "magic" that can happen and the excitement that awaits them. In order for the "magic" to happen, it begins with creating a climate and culture that breeds success.
I just finished reading the book "Lead Like a Pirate" by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf. It is a thought-providing, motivating book that provides various examples on how to create a positive climate and culture for your students and staff. As administrators, Burgess and Houf share practical real world examples of how they utilized their own leadership skills, and the leadership of others to make their schools places where students didn't want to leave. Leading requires Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Asking/Analyzing, Transformation and Enthusiasm.
"Making school a place where students don't want to leave." Wow. It is such a powerful thought and one that as an administrator or teacher we should strive to do for our students each day. I have been fortunate to work with some amazing educators throughout my career that have been able to make their classrooms and their schools such a place. Their classrooms have been based on trust, relationships, common goals, enthusiasm and a commitment to excellence. They immerse themselves in what they do and when they say "I do what is best for kids" they truly mean it.
George Couros in "The Innovator's Mindset" said it best when he stated, "If we want to make meaningful change, we have to make a connection to the heart before we can make a connection to the mind." The summer time gives me an opportunity to do much more reflection and to spend time preparing for the upcoming year. As we prepare to set sail on a new voyage, I look forward to seeing my "crew." I know that as we chart the course to "another world" for our students, every second we are with them we have the chance to make a positive difference in their day and maybe even in the rest of their lives. It starts with building meaningful relationships, creating a nurturing environment and showing students that anything is possible when you believe. Now that is "magic!" Yo ho, Yo ho, a Pirate's life for me!
"Administration is a lonely profession." This is something I hear over and over again from people when I tell them I am a school administrator. While ultimately as Principal I am the instructional leader and final decision maker in the building, I find my job to be far from lonely. Meeting with teachers, talking with students, getting out into the community, observing classes, facilitating workshops, going to after school events, and attending committee meetings have me in the middle of many engaging conversations and collaborating with dozens of people. Each meaningful conversation reminds me of why I love doing what I do every day.
As I reflect more on why people think the job of an administrator can be lonely, for me it is more about how often I have time to grow professionally with others rather than the day to day responsibilities of the job. It is true that it is very difficult as an administrator to find time to grow yourself professionally when the expectations are that you help others grow. Single day workshops and mini-conferences are beneficial but the lasting impact they have can be difficult when there is little time to collaborate with others. This is when I made an effort to join Twitter and establish my PLN (personalized learning network.) It has become a game-changer for me in my professional growth.
A PLN, when searched in Google, is a tool that uses social media and technology to collect, communcate, collaborate and create with connected colleagues anywhere at any time. For more information on how to establish a PLN and why it is beneficial I would encourage you to read the following article in Edutopia, https://www.edutopia.org/blog/how-do-i-get-a-pln-tom-whitby
Establishing my PLN began for me when I heard a keynote address by Eric Sheninger (@E_Sheninger) at a Google Summit I attended at High Point Regional High School in 2013. He talked about the power of social media and how he used it to help his students and his school achieve success. As I experimented with Twitter and began networking with fellow educators I was enlightened with hundreds of ideas. It was a 24 hour professional development resource. We started our own Technology Summit in the Pequannock School District which has afforded me the opportunity to meet and talk with educational experts like Will Richardson (@willrich45), Alice Keeler (@alicekeeler), Rich Kiker (@rkiker) and Denis Sheeran (@MathDenisNJ), among others. Most recently I have been talking with Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy) who is a Senior Fellow for the International Center for Leadership in Education. He will be our opening keynote speaker for our first day of school this year. I am looking forward to the positive impact he will have on all of our staff members in the district. These are just a few of the hundreds of educators I follow on a daily basis. Participating in Twitter chats such as #satchat, #makeitreal, #tlap and #leadlap just to name a few, have provided the opportunity to share ideas, hear educational theories and put into practice new instructional techniques that has reinvigorated my passion for the work we do together in our school. I am never alone in my office. Even during the time when administrative paperwork is inevitable, I know I can always reach out to learn from someone simply by reaching out to my PLN.
My PLN has re-established my love for reading. Hearing about books like Lead Like a Pirate, Teach Like a Pirate, Shift This, The Innovator's Mindset, Instant Relevance, Kids Deserve It and Digital Leadership has transformed me as a building leader and has re-defined the climate and culture in our school and in our community. Watching some of my teachers creating their own PLNs on Twitter and incorporating new techniques into their classrooms has only made us stronger together.
I encourage any educator to establish a PLN. Whether you are a teacher, administrator, media specialist, nurse, school counselor, or someone who is just looking to grow professionally, give Twitter a try, read a blog, write a blog (yes, I'm a first timer), follow educators on LinkedIn and Google+. It will open your eyes to the endless opportunities that await you. My job is far from lonely. In fact, I have never had more people to rely on! Let us continue to grow together and help prepare a new generation of learners and educators! Happy Learning!
Follow me on Twitter @RichHayzler